Equity is Cheap for Large Financial Institutions: The International Evidence

Equity is Cheap for Large Financial Institutions: The International Evidence

By
Priyank Gandhi, Hanno Lustig, Alberto Plazzi
Review of Financial Studies (accepted). January
2019

Equity is a cheap source of funding for a country’s largest financial institutions. In a large panel of 31 countries, we find that the stocks of a country’s largest financial companies earn returns that are significantly lower than stocks of non-financials with the same risk exposures. In developed countries, only the largest banks’ stock earns negative risk-adjusted returns, but, in emerging market countries, other large non-bank financial firms do. Even though large banks have high betas, these risk-adjusted return spreads cannot be attributed to the risk anomaly. Instead, we find that the large-minus-small, financial-minus-nonfinancial, risk-adjusted spread varies across countries and over time in ways that are consistent with stock investors pricing in the implicit government guarantees that protect shareholders of the largest banks. The spread is significantly larger for the largest banks in countries with deposit insurance, backed by fiscally strong governments, and in common law countries that offer shareholders better protection from expropriation. Finally, the spread also predicts large crashes in that country’s stock market and output.